DIARY cartoonist Jock Macneish is a gifted artist.
His Warrandyte Festival logos, superbly drawn to capture the iconic presence of the Yarra River within each theme’s graphic, have been a hallmark here for almost 40 years. He also paints an exquisite watercolour.
However, it was Jock’s brilliance as a cartoonist that lit up audi- ence members at a presentation by Warrandyte Historical Society last month.
Illustrated by just 30 of almost 2000 cartoons he has drawn for the Diary since it’s first edition, Jock’s talk covered the local paper, the community, the role of Warrandyte Historical Society “and a bunch of other stuff”.
His keen impressions of “this wonderful community” filled the hall at North Warrandyte with laughter and earned a nod from many who recognised themselves in more than one cartoon. While his observations carried with them a thought-provoking message about care and identity, two concepts Jock believes make Warrandyte a great place to live.
“Communities are the things we do and the things we share because we care for people and for the good of the place,” Jock said. “Warrandyte is a fortunate location, populated by a fortunate people who have what is known as a ‘care surplus’.
“Although we think of Warrandyte as the ‘home of the artist’, in fact it would be more accurate to describe the Warrandyte house as the ‘unfinished symphony’,” he joked. “Probably a result of homeowners spending far too much time at community working bees.”
About identity, Jock said:
“Warrandyte Historical Society does an excellent job of letting us know who we were and Warrandyte Diary is, and has been, an ideal way of finding out who we are. As to who we are becoming…”
“Tomorrow belongs to that happy band of mumbling, awkward, slightly smelly bunch of teenagers you’ll find slouching about in school play- grounds and skate parks,” he said. “I can’t understand much of what they are saying, but I do know that by growing up in Warrandyte they are acquiring an identity, which will serve them well throughout their lives. And they’re absorbing a capacity to care for people and place which is second to none.”
Although he’s “never really thought of himself as a cartoonist” because he “does so many other things” (like being an architect, author, artist and illustrator who spent 20 years working in media broadcasting and another 20 years as an independent communications consultant), Jock told the Diary he has “drawn cartoons for a living.” From 1969-70, Jock was the daily pocket cartoonist at short-lived Melbourne evening newspaper Newsday, alongside feature cartoonist Michael Leunig of today’s Age.
He was also the cartoonist for Papua New Guinea’s national newspaper the Post Courier, from 1973-75.
Outwardly, cartoons about Warrandyte, about anything, might look easy to create, but are they? I asked Jock to draw me a picture.
“The powerful thing about cartoons is that visually they are all about recognition, but cognitively they are about revelation. Cartoonists try to reveal aspects of the human condition and express those in a form of visual shorthand – a cartoon,” he explained.
“They ‘see’ what’s going on in the slightly more obscure world of human behaviour, the subtle inter-relationships between people and place that make up, say, the Warrandyte community.”
“Anyone living here can recognise Warrandyte at a glance, but actually ‘seeing’ is much more difficult. Seeing Warrandyte’s shapes and textures, its colours and its shadows is what artists do.”
(No, Jock. Seriously. I meant draw me a picture.)
While visual communication is undoubtedly Jock’s strong suit, the talented artist’s parting words were equally insightful.
“It’s been a privilege, having been part of recording ‘what happened’ to Warrandyte over the past 46 years,” he said. “It’s taught me how to better care for people and for the good of the place. It’s shaped my identity.”